Monthly Archives: February 2015

Was school tougher back then?

Let’s say you have a load of wheat that weighs 3,942 pounds. What is it worth at 50 cents per bushel, deducting 1,050 pounds for tare?

Well, before attempting an answer we need to know what a tare is or where on the planet one can score on wheat that goes for two bushels for a buck.

And here’s another question that’s a bit more challenging: What is meant by the following: alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology and syllabication?

What I have in front of me is portions of an eighth grade end-of-term examination administered to students in Salina, Kans., and elsewhere. The year was 1895, and we assume students who prepared for the exam had neither the Internet with which to Google the answers, nor had they been distracted by incessant text messaging. They didn’t even have hand-held calculators. More likely each student needed to check out an abacus. Continue reading

Social promotion– it rankles

Some expressions simply rankle. But even so, their overuse leads them to become part of the lexicon, which in turn works toward acceptance.

Let me explain:

This week, the GOP-controlled New Mexico House is tackling what is called “social promotion,” which has led to passionate debates on whether to retain third-grade school kids if they haven’t acquired the tools to read at grade level. I’ve already written considerably on this topic — you can probably infer that I’m opposed to giving kids a second helping of third grade — and my aim is to write mainly about the semantics of “social promotion.”

Having taught at least one year at every level, from first grade through graduate school, I wince at hearing the term “social promotion.” To me it smacks of some kind of favoritism. It’s almost as if a pair of powerful parents have been politicking principals with the insistence that their child mustn’t be made to repeat third grade. Continue reading

Spare us that ‘special day’

There’s a certain satisfaction one derives by doing a good deed. And the good feeling is enhanced when others notice it.

So it was as I lay on a padded table at the United Blood Services lab in Santa Fe last week, donating blood as part of my three-times-a-year regimen. Of course, Las Vegas has its own blood drives — one very successful drive for the motorcycle rally in the summer.

I don’t know why I’ve chosen Santa Fe as the place to make deposits; it might well be that I’m on a first-name basis with two of the phlebotomists who draw my blood. They’re Connie and Jerry, each with more than 20 years’ experience.

Most of the time they’ve been successful in locating the proper vein in my arm, but on at least one occasion, when they looked for blood, they searched in vein. I read somewhere that giving blood is healthful on at least three scores: It earns me another t-shirt, with “Hero” in bold red letters across the front; it sets a good example in an act that just might help another; and finally, I recall, for men it prevents excessive buildup of iron in our system. Continue reading

They saw a game

Perception. What did we see? What did we really see? And what did we want to see?

A number of columns ago, I wrote about a particularly bloody college football game between two Big 10 teams, a fierce, decades-long rivalry.

The winning team lost two quarterbacks to injuries; the losing team lost with its second-string signal-caller at the controls.

Well, this was in the time when TV was in its infancy. If “instant replay,” to which we football fans are now quite accustomed and addicted, existed in those days, it was nascent. There was, for example, a play in Sunday’s Super Bowl in which the Seattle receiver needed to do some loop-de-loops to register a catch, finally managing to snare the ball before it hit the ground. That gave Seahawks fans some hope. Continue reading